I knew something wasn’t right, but what was it? As I walked around the people seemed nice enough even cordial in conversation – a shallow exchange. I’d observed the remnant of a once great church with a stellar history. She’d once ministered in her community with great effect. Sadly relevance unknowingly had waned. The mission was lost, the energy sapped, the passion nearly extinguished. All that remained were the “I remember” claims. The future had slipped through their hands like grains of sand.
And what was missing? The Spirit was missing though not obvious to the regulars. His absenteeism began years ago. It had been so long they’d forgotten what the Spirit’s presence was like in a faith community. You just work harder in the void; they’d gotten to an uneasy place of independence. There’s always a shift from His power to your strength in the departure. No one seemed to recognize or even miss His absence. The church just went on doing what it had been doing for so long completely ignorant of the emptiness and lack of power.
I’ve been to a church like this before. Perhaps you have too. In fact, I’ve served in a church like this before and perhaps you do or have as well. If you’ve never witnessed the Spirit’s presence in a community, unfortunately you don’t have a point of reference to know what’s missing. If you’ve witnessed the Spirit’s presence before and He’s departed, you should be able to observe that something is missing. Unfortunately, the spiritual memory fades the longer you reside in a powerless place (without the Spirit). Here’s a sad observation. I believe the Spirit’s departure is more prevalent in American churches today than His presence. The powerless church is all too common and as I’ve dialogued with pastors across the nation, I think it is the norm.
Why did the power go out? I’ll give you at least five observations from over the years. Pride is the first. It’s the opposite of humility. God doesn’t honor pride, but humility. Self-reliance is the second. If you must depend on your skill, talent or ability to get the job done, God’s probably not in it. Sin or disobedience is the third. God doesn’t bless a people in open sin or willful disobedience. When I reference the lack of blessing it’s the absence of His adventure for your life. Faithlessness is another. The less we trust Him, the less we see of Him. Unforgiveness is the last. There is always bitterness and bondage in unforgivenss. These emotions control an individual or community that chooses to live outside forgiveness.
Why this post? It’s simply an observation. Is this a play for the charismatic? Absolutely not! That’s not my framework. The Spirit is real and needs to be recognized. I know what it’s like to serve in a community where the Spirit is present and I know what it’s like to serve in a church where the Spirit is absent. How I enjoy the community where God’s Spirit is active, moving, and working! This pastor is grateful, thrilled, and humbled to be a part of such a church today. The Spirit’s presence is real, tangible, and recognizable. I’m thankful for His presence!